The National Prayer Vigil for Life will begin this afternoon and conclude Friday morning at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Pope Francis celebrated Mass during his recent visit to Washington.
More than 20,000 pilgrims from around the nation are expected; they will pray there for an end to abortion before the annual March for Life tomorrow. The march is still scheduled to take place despite forecasts for a blizzard.
This year’s Vigil marks the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion nationwide. Since those decisions, over 56 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States.
The principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Opening Mass will be Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The Mass will be concelebrated by his fellow cardinals and many of the nation’s bishops and priests in the Basilica’s Great Upper Church. The 14-hour Vigil continues in the Crypt Church with confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Byzantine Rite Night Prayer, and holy hours led by seminarians from across the country from 11 p.m.-6 a.m. That same evening, The Catholic University of America will host approximately 1,000 pilgrims overnight.
“It’s a huge encouragement to see so many young people praying, fasting, and marching to end abortion,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “The loss of unborn children often devastates mothers, fathers, and other family members. And in the broader society, if life in the womb is not protected, then no one’s right to life is secure.”
“The Jubilee Year of Mercy calls us to pray for the respect of all vulnerable people, and for the healing of those seeking peace after abortions,” McQuade said.
On Friday, the day of the March for Life, the Basilica will host Morning Prayer in the Crypt Church and then the Vigil’s Closing Mass at 7:30 a.m. in the Great Upper Church, with Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh as principal celebrant and homilist.
The National Prayer Vigil for Life is co-sponsored by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and The Catholic University of America.